Some campaigns feature other key end points addressing patients' aggregated experience, such as time to progression of disease
("progression-free survival"), as surrogates for true survival data. Others are limited to physical tumor characteristics,
measured by response—such as if tumors disappeared (complete response) or shrank (partial response). (For a guide to cancer
treatment claims, see "Sifting the data: Understanding oncology claims".)
Sifting the Data: Understanding Oncology Claims
Unlike many campaigns for conventional pharmaceuticals, few oncology ads attempt to differentiate products based on subgroup
analyses of specific patient populations, a practice sometimes disparaged as "data-dredging" by statisticians. This likely
reflects the fact that smaller sample sizes, typical in oncology trials, often make subgroups too tiny for meaningful patterns
to appear. More significant is the relative absence of claims of superiority based on an excellent tolerability, adverse events
profile, or other quality-of-life data. In contrast to so many non-cancer drug ads, none of the advertising Flashpoint reviewed
described a "balance" of efficacy and safety. To oncologists, it seems, efficacy nearly always comes first.
Trend #2: Patients are people too
Data alone can be cold and dispassionate; it's hard own a space in physicians' hearts with numbers alone. As oncology marketing
matures, it is tapping the power of emotion to drive brand choices. Today, marketers recognize that when oncologists have
multiple options, the brand with emotional power is most often remembered—and selected. One way to make strong data personal
is by using imagery of real people in advertising campaigns. Judging by the numbers of campaigns using this approach, it's
a trend that's growing.
Genentech's Herceptin (trastuzumab) shows photographs of actual breast cancer patients who are happy and healthy enough to
exercise. (All the patients are dressed in shades of pink and black, and bold bands of magenta echo similarly colored headline
type to ensure that the drug name, Herceptin, stands out.) Copy links the drug's "landmark studies" to "perseverance," and
a K-M curve shows how much delay in disease recurrence specialists and their patients can expect when the product is used
as an adjuvant to surgery in appropriate patients.
Indeed, emotionality figures prominently in many of today's oncology ads, even when data take a back seat. The challenge for
marketers is to ensure these depictions are distinctive and memorable for their brand and don't fall into the clichés of patient
walking on a beach or in a field of flowers—or other picturesque scenery typical of direct-to-consumer advertising. In the
campaigns for BMS' Sprycel (dasatinib) and GlaxoSmithKline's Tykerb (lapatinib), ad headlines voice the patient's "thoughts."
"I am turning to SPRYCEL" thinks a greying gentleman, while in the Tykerb ad we see the profile of a grey-haired woman with
the text "I want more."
Are these patients' images rendered or photographed in a sufficiently attention-getting way to help their brand stand out?
Is the device of the patient's intentions or pleas likely to make an impact on an oncologist's decision-making? Consistency
in execution doesn't necessarily guarantee memorability if the consistently repeated idea lacks a compelling core.